John 19.38-42

Title: Joseph of Arimathea

Text: John 19.38-42

Introduction: This week Wendy Baker and Jamie Warren shared their dream of a ‘school’ to help kids with learning differences. There story is wonderful, and yet pained me because I was reminded of the many kids who are mistreated because of their difficulties. They’re different and so they’re demeaned and bullied.

John Ortberg: In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg tells of a young man named John Gilbert. At age five, John was diagnosed with Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy: a genetic, progressive, debilitating disease. At the age of 25, the disease finally claimed John’s life.

Every year John lost something. One year, he lost the ability to run, so he couldn’t play sports with the other kids. Another year he could no longer walk straight, so all he could do was watch others play. He lost the ability to do all the outward things that we think of that make us human. Eventually, he even lost the ability to speak.

John Gilbert suffered far more than what most of us can imagine during those years. Groups of students humiliated him because of his condition and because he had to bring a trained dog to school to help him. A bully used to torture him in the lunchroom where there were no supervising teachers. No one ever stood up for him; maybe they were afraid for themselves; who knows?

“What a silly species we are,” John writes. “We all need to feel accepted ourselves, but we constantly reject others.” (from

Transition: Why is that? Why do we fear others or desire the acceptance of others? What are we afraid of? Today we look closely at a man who acted out of fear. That is, until at one moment, there was something greater than fear that motivated him.

Today we’ll simply read the text and deduce, as best we can from that text, what kind of man Joseph of Arimathea was.  We begin in v 38; Rd v 38a; After these things. Review: We’ve been studying different Characters on the way to the Cross: Judas, Peter, Annas, Caiaphas, The Sanhedrin, Pilate and Barabbas. All of these men have played a part in the story of our Savior’s death. Jesus was betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. Then, the Jews perpetrated two mock trials and a third trial they would consider as Legit. They wanted Christ to die a humiliating death. Stoning him wasn’t enough. It’s something to hate someone so much you want them dead. It’s another thing to hate them so much that you’d orchestrated a publicly humiliating death. His death was planned by God since the beginning – a plan to substitute the innocent for the guilty. Barabbas represents that person in us. His death was ours.

At this point, Jesus hangs dead on the cross. Much of the blood on his body has dried and crusted. But there is blood still dripping from his body because one of the soldiers took his javelin, his spear and thrust it into his side, pushing up to the heart. Jesus hangs alone. His disciples have fled – their worlds upended. All that they had dreamed of is gone. The Jews smile a crooked smile, turn and walk away. But there is one from among them – one from their own group whose face is distorted from pain. He makes his way back to the place where Christ was condemned – the governor’s palace. Who is this man? Rd 38b-c; After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus,

The only point I have this morning is this: Joseph of Arimathea was…

  1.  A Disciple of Christ (10-13)

exp.: So, what do we know about this disciple? Well, we know he was from

1.   Arimathea: a village we know absolutely nothing about. Some scholars think it was apparently situated on the Judean hills in the tribal area of Benjamin. From Arimathea, his plan is to be buried near his home now – Jerusalem. I wonder if his purchase of a tomb tells us he’s old or maybe widowed. Maybe he lost a child and needed a family sepulcher. We don’t know. 2ndly, we see his devotion is from a distance. Rd v 38;

2.   Secretly – I’ve pretty much always been taught that there are no secret admirers of Christ. But I’ve learned through the years that is not true.

ill.: Son of Hamas; Mosab Hassan Yousef; Met a British Missionary who shared Christ with him. He spent the next two years studying and gradually coming to a place of belief and trust. It would be 6 years before he would be baptized.

app.: I wonder if our ‘easy beliveism’ has made wimpy Christians in America? What would it be like for us if it costs us greatly – if we had to admire Christ secretly before publicly acknowledging Christ as Savior? So why the secrecy for Joseph? Rd 38c; for fear of the Jews

  • He was afraid: Fear – specifically, of the Jews. This was common for the people who wanted to follow Christ or simply learn more about him; 7.13; Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. And we see the disciples, in the hours and days after the crucifixion, while Jesus was in the grave and shortly after his resurrection, hiding for fear of the Jews; 20.19;

t.s.: I think there’s another reason for his secrecy;

  • He was wealthy: Matthew 27.57: When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. His wealth explains his ownership of this nice tomb, but it might indicate more about his secrecy. Following Jesus offends people. And, depending on what your goods are, people who are offended will often shop elsewhere.

–   Maybe they’re offended. They feel betrayed. To them, you’re now an apostate – an infidel. (Anger)

–   Maybe they just don’t want to see their old friend – it’s too awkward.

ill.: As a pastor, I’ve stopped shopping at businesses where former members work. It’s not that I want them to fail economically! It just hurts too bad to see them. (Hurt)

–   Maybe, they fear the Jews, too, and they know the consequences for supporting their old friend. (Fear)

t.s.: Mark gives us another clue to his secret discipleship: Mark 15.42-4342 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Secretly cont.:

–    He was a council member: That’s why I painted this picture in the beginning with one of the Sanhedrin, not smiling wily. No, I don’t know if he was really there or not. I’ve only imagined it for our story line. But, what we do know is that he hears about it somewhere, somehow.

–   He is a ‘respected’ council member: He not only holds a position of importance, but there is an air of prestige about this membership. Here’s a man who secretly has been a follower of Christ. Because of the secrecy, he’s given nothing to Christ publicly. What can he give now? What would you give a dead man?He gives him a tomb – which BTW: he’ll only need for a few days! Rd v 43

–     He is bold – lit.: he dared to ask. Most of the time this verse is translated dare. As in: No one dared ask him more questions. This verse tells us his secret is no longer important to him.

ill.: I think we put value on issues and plans and dreams and position and prestige. We act in compliance with that value. We act in compliance with that value until something else becomes more important. This happened to Joseph and he’s no longer concerned with his money, his position in the council, his prestige as a respected Jew. Now, Christ is more important.

app.: If you’re a public follower of Christ, then this has happened to you. Something happened to cause you to say that you don’t care what it costs you – you’re going to follow Jesus. Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important to you than Jesus. You don’t care who knows and you don’t care anymore what they think.

Transition: We read in Scripture that he was from Arimathea, A disciple from a distance, and that he was

3.  Good and Righteous; and we get this from Luke (23.50) Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God.

1.   Proverbs 2.9 tells us that these two characteristics adorn the wise.

2.   Furthermore, the Scripture tells us that he did not consent to their decision, nor their action. Maybe he wasn’t there at 1st. Maybe he was and chose not to speak up. In any instance, he did not give consent to the decision, nor to their actions.

app.: I’m so glad we meet Joseph. It offers up hope that there were men who served as a part of the Sanhedrin who saw through the wicked actions of the leadership; men who were good men, righteous men in the actions and deeds. Indeed, in the following verse we meet Nicodemus, who appears to be a man cut from the same cloth as Joseph.


Do you remember John Gilbert, the young man I mentioned in the intro? He had other moments in his life that weren’t so bad. Moments that were quite wonderful, actually. Once he was invited to a National Football League fundraising auction. When it began, one item in particular caught John’s eye: a basketball signed by the players of the Sacramento Kings professional team. John so desperately wanted that ball that when it came up for bid, he felt his hand raise up in the air. Not having the funds to participate, John’s mother quickly brought it back down.

They watched the bidding go up and up and up. It rose to an astounding amount compared to the value of the ball and especially compared to other items at the auction. Finally, a man made a bid that no one else could possibly match, and he won the prize.

The man walked to the front and claimed the basketball. But instead of going back to his seat, the man walked across the room and gently placed it into the thin, small hands of the boy who had desired it so strongly. The man put that ball into hands that would never dribble a ball down a court, never throw it to a teammate, never shoot a shot from the charity strip. But those hands would cherish that for as long as they lived.

John writes, “It took me a moment to realize what the man had done. I remember hearing gasps all around the room, then thunderous applause and weeping eyes. To this day I’m amazed. Have you ever been given a gift that you could have never gotten for yourself? Has anyone ever sacrificed a huge amount for you without getting anything in return except the joy of giving?”

A gift of great value, beyond what we could ever purchase for ourselves: that is what Jesus did when he died on a cross, was buried in Joseph’s tomb, and rose again on the 3rd day. He has given us the gift of eternal life. And he offers that gift to you.

Invitation: Do you want that gift? Do you want it so bad, you’d simply slip your hand into the air, like John did? I offer you Christ today, will you receive him?


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